It is normally such a special and magical time of the year. Christmas is about bringing families and loved ones together and celebrating having each other in our lives. There is the frantic shopping to find that original present to show someone how much you care. There is an excess of food and treats bought and consumed and we would typically have an increase in our social activities around this time of year to celebrate our achievements and welcome in the New Year.
2020 for all of us has seen a Global Pandemic and there has been very little to celebrate. We have seen unprecedented death tolls; we have seen country borders close and severe restrictions to our everyday life that have not been experienced before in my lifetime. We have adapted and managed ourselves to accommodate the new procedures that allow us to exist in today’s world.
New challenges in a life of changes
Facemasks are now worn daily and are considered a normal item of clothing. Hand washing has become more frequent along with copious amounts of hand sanitiser being used. Travel restrictions have made us re-evaluate our need to travel and we have grown more accustomed to the wide array of digital platforms available to carry out meetings, be it for business or pleasure. In fact, for many that may be how we celebrate Christmas with family and loved ones this year.
Events have been cancelled and live sport has been only for the few but with virtual audiences. We must be grateful that the Vendee Globe is taking place at all. In France, at a time when the country was locked down, we witnessed 33 solo sailors take on the ‘Everest of the Seas’. They departed Les Sables d’Olonne, in November and allowed us to follow the greatest sporting spectacle we would see in sailing, that would last for approximately three months. It has not been without its drama and we have seen several retirements
The race is now halfway round the world and we still have 80% of the fleet still racing. This a great testament to the IMOCA class, the Race Direction, and the professionalism of the teams, as it has never been seen before in this race.
Circumnavigators can chat on VHF
We are normally expecting a much greater attrition rate. The most remarkable observation for this race to date is how close the fleet remain. The top ten boats are all within 650 miles of each other. We are used to seeing a breakaway lead few boats that are days in separation from the fleet and now we are seeing them just hours apart and often within sight of each other. It will remain lke this in the next days in the Southern Ocean.
Only last week we saw five boats within the top ten all within 2 miles of each other as they passed the second great cape of Cape Leeuwin. Halfway round the racetrack and still so close was remarkable. Looking ahead at the Christmas forecast, we could, yet again see the top ten of the fleet tackling a high pressure and sailing side by side again. We would normally see the grey hostile skies and huge mountainous waves and gale force winds of the Southern Ocean where the sailors are alone and miles from land, rescue, and each other
Yet this week as we celebrate Christmas, we will be seeing the stable conditions of a high pressure and possible clear skies, calm winds and a gentle swell for the fleet tackling the South Pacific Ocean. They will be close enough to chat on VHF, even call out from one boat to another. They will have a sense of camaraderie and it will reduce their sense of feeling alone.
Turkey on board
For many of our sailors on the Vendee Globe, they will be experiencing Christmas alone for the first time and for many of them this may be their first Christmas at sea. Well, I can tell you that it does feel a little different and I have now experienced four Christmas Days at sea, and they have all been different. The biggest factor is that Mother Nature does not know it is Christmas.